Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guest Post: Deva Fagan

Well, folks, National Novel Writing Month is coming to a close.  I can hear the tappity tapping of each little key as NaNovelers frantically try to meet their deadline!  What better time for another fabulous guest post?

Today I'd like to welcome Deva Fagan, author of Fortune's Folly (Henry Holt & Co., 2009), The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle (Henry Holt & Co., 2010), and the upcoming Circus Galacticus (Harcourt, 2011).

Deva presents...

A Tale of Two NaNoWriMos

I first did NaNoWriMo back in 2003, and it was a wonderful experience. I tried it again last year and failed miserably. Don’t worry, though, this isn’t going to be a tale of woe and misery. I still think NaNoWriMo can be a great tool. But as with everything in your writing kit, you have to decide if it’s the right tool for you, and for your current project.

In 2003 I had been grinding away on a long, serious epic fantasy novel for the past year or more, when a friend of mine told me about NaNoWriMo. He said a bunch of other folks I knew were going to give is a shot, and invited me to join them. By that point I was sick of my “serious” book, and also kind of desperate to meet some other writers. So I dusted off a funny little idea about a girl who told fake fortunes, and said yes. The six of us created a Yahoo group to cheer each other onward. And at the end of the month, I had over 50K. A few weeks later, I had a completed draft of Fortune’s Folly. A few years later, that book got me an agent, and then a publishing contract. And now it’s out there in libraries and bookstores. Sure it’s changed some-- I completely rewrote the ending and went through at least five beginnings-- but the heart of the book remains the same as the story I was madly outlining on October 31, 2003.

Fast-forward to last year, when I decided to give NaNoWriMo another try. I’d written a couple other books since 2003, and sold a couple of them. I had an idea for a new book, and I figured NaNoWriMo would be a good way to kick-start it.

I think I wrote about 6K words total that month. And then I didn’t write anything at all in December.

So what was the difference?

First, I had a support group in 2003. Okay, the competition probably helped too. I sure didn’t want to be the ONLY ONE in the group who didn’t finish! (And in fact all of us DID finish, go team!) Last year, while I did know folks who were doing NaNoWriMo, and added dozens of “buddies” to my list, it wasn’t the same. I think it’s fantastic that NaNoWriMo now has such a rich array of forums, but I also think that for folks like me, it can be more helpful to form a smaller, more focused support group.

Second, I picked a project in 2003 that was light and breezy. I do like to think there are some deeper themes and issues in Fortune’s Folly, but it’s also fairly plot-driven. The book I was trying to write last year was darker, more emotional, and more character-driven. So maybe it just wasn’t a good choice for NaNoWriMo: the more I forced the words out, the more I hated what I was writing.

Third, last year I was lazy. I have no excuse for that except that I had recently discovered Project Runway.

So would I do NaNoWriMo again? Definitely. (I may even have signed up for this year...) The best thing about NaNoWriMo, in my opinion, is the kick-in-the-pants it can give us when we’re struggling to get started on something. So if you need it, go out there and grab some of that enthusiasm! But if it’s not working for you, or for this book, give yourself permission to break the rules, and do what is best for YOU and YOUR BOOK, whether that’s writing fast, or slow, or somewhere in between.

Deva Fagan writes fantasy and science fiction for teens and tweens.  She lives in Maine with her husband and her dog. When she's not writing she spends her time reading, doing geometry, and dressing up as imaginary people. She believes stories have the power to change the world. You can read more about Deva and her books at www.devafagan.com.

So, NaNovelers, take heart!  If you're able to finish, fabulous!  If not, there's always next year, or maybe NaNo's just not the right tool for you or for your book.  

Thanks, Deva, for wrapping up our NaNoWriMo guest posts with such a super one!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk + Giveaway!

Okay, first of all, I want to tell you about The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future.  And then keep on reading because I have a fabulous Scholastic giveaway to share with you!  First thing's first:

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: King-Fu Cavemen from the Future by Dav Pilkey.  (Grades 2-5.)  Scholastic, August 2010.  176 pages.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Ook and Gluk (rhymes with 'duck') have been having fun together since they were in cave diapers - going over waterfalls on logs, running from Mog-Mog the dinosaur, and making life miserable for Big Chief Goppernopper, the ruler of Caveland.  When an evil corporation from the future comes back to harvest resources and enslave the cavepeople, can Ook and Gluk save the day?


Step 2:  Enjoy this wacky, hilarious, irreverent book.  Laugh like you did when you were a kid.  Revel in the ridiculousness. 

Step 3:  Hand it to the kids at your library and tell them, "This book is soooo funny!"

I admit that when I first opened this book, I still had my grownup hat on.  I read Captain Underpants in grad school, but that was years ago, and I kept saying, "Really?  This book is all misspelled!  We can't let kids read this!"

Yeah, then I made myself take off my grownup hat.  And what I found was a hysterical romp through time and back.  I mean, this book's got time-travel, dinosaurs, kung-fu, pleeenty of potty humor, and two kids who end up saving the day by beating down The Man.  What more could a young reader want?

I have proof from the trenches, too.  The other day, a boy came in asking for "the new Captain Underpants".  I explained that there weren't any new Captain Underpants books, but the same author had this new series and I pulled it off the shelving cart for him.  Holy cats.  You would have thought I was, I dunno, Santa Claus or The Beatles or something.  He was so happy to have this book in his hands.

Okay, it's not for all readers.  Kids looking for sensitive stories with nuanced characters should probably look elsewhere.  And it's definitely not for all parents.  It's not great literature, but it's a mighty enjoyable read and anything that gets kids excited about reading is a-okay with me.

Check out more reviews at Oh Boy, Books, Back to Books, Brimful Curiosities, Literate Lives, and A Year of Reading.

And while you're checking out things, check out the book's website with lots of neat activities and a video about the creation of Ook and Gluk.   

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future is on shelves now!

And if you're just dying to read it, why not enter this fabulous giveaway from Scholastic?

The giveaway is now closed.  Thanks to all who entered!  Happy holidays! :)

Just in time for the holidays, one lucky winner (US residents only) will receive

A HUGE Scholastic Holiday prize pack featuring

· Ook and Gluk

· Captain Sky Blue

· It’s Christmas David

· Tony Baloney

· The Odious Ogre

· I SPY Christmas

Just fill out the following form by the end of Sunday, December 5 and on Monday, December 6 I will use the random number generator to pick one lucky winner!  These books will make great gifts for the kids in your life.  Enter today!

Claude Monet: The Painter Who Stopped the Trains

Claude Monet:  The Painter Who Stopped the Trains by P.I. Maltbie, illustrated by Jos A. Smith.  (Grades 2-5.)  Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 2010.  Unpaged.  Review copy provided by my local library.  This book is a nominee for the 2010 Cybils Awards and this review reflects only my own opinion.

Claude Monet didn't like being called an Impressionist.  When he was alive and working, the term was meant to poke fun at the new generation of artists who painted outside with bright colors and visible brush strokes, taking inspiration from the scenery and towns around them instead of from ancient myths and historical events.  So, when Monet was invited to participate in a show with a couple of his artist friends, he tried to think of something that would wow viewers and critics.  And then it came to him:  Trains.

The year was 1876 and trains were the thing.  They were the most modern and fastest mode of transportation.  Trains were changing everything, and Paris was charging forth into the future.  Claude Monet wanted to paint the trains and capture the billowing smoke and how the light played through it.  But first, he had to get the station master to agree to stop the trains, just for him.

Well, Monet dressed up in his fanciest suit and the director of the Saint-Lazare train station agreed to delay the trains so that he could paint them.  And guess what?  People liked it.

What I love about this book is that it tells a small tale - a story of Monet painting the trains - but it conveys so much more information than just that little bit of Monet's life.  The text and illustrations work well together to create a feel for the time.  You know, I can hear a train outside my window as I type this (the tracks are lamentably close to my apartment complex) and I realize that we've lost much of our sense of wonder in trains.  But back then...  They were the harbinger of technology, of the modern age.  And, artistically speaking, maybe Monet was, too.

And ohhh the author's note!  It fills my heart with joy!  It spells out exactly what was fictionalized and adds additional factual details about the events that happened in the book.  A small reproduction of one of Monet's train paintings and a photo of the actual station are included.  Also included is a list of museums where Monet's paintings can be found, as well as a bibliography and an index.  The artist's note includes information about what research he did to replicate the time period and his decision not to emulate Monet's art in the illustrations, but rather to create something new.

Altogether, I think this is a fantastic example of children's nonfiction.  And hey, it made me want to go look at Monet's art, which might be the best reaction an author could hope for.

Claude Monet: The Painter Who Stopped the Trains is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday!  The roundup is at Playing by the Book!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In My Mailbox #58

Welcome to In My Mailbox, a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren in which bloggers share the contents of their mailboxes in order to spread the word about new and upcoming titles.

This week I only got one book in the mail, but I am super excited about it...

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, read by Alan Cumming (Simon & Schuster Audio, October 2010).  Y'all know how much I loooved the audiobook recording of Leviathan, so I'm super excited to listen to this one!  Alan Cumming is a *great* reader and I have heard wonderful things about Behemoth

And if you want a little something to whet your appetite for this one, here's a video of Alan Cumming and Scott Westerfeld talking about the audiobook: 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A NaNoWriMo Confession

I have been putting off writing this post, but I won't put it off any longer.

I am not going to finish NaNoWriMo this year.  I knew going into it that I'm busier now than I ever have been in Novembers past, and I decided (about 2 weeks ago) that it's more worthwhile for me to concentrate on the things I need to do (my job, the Cybils) and the things I really want to do (practice my choir music, read awesome books, sleep) than to grind out 30k more words.

Going into this year's novel, I had a strong idea of what I wanted to write, but my idea turned out not to be a 50,000 word idea.  And you know what?  That's okay.  I'm okay with giving up on NaNoWriMo this year.

If you have already hit 50k, that's amazing!!!  Huzzah!!!

If you are still going with your novel, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!  You can do it!!!!

And if you have decided that 50,000 words are not in the cards for you this year, that's okay.  Maybe next year.  Or maybe the year after that.  Or maybe not.  For me, I don't plan on seriously pursuing publication, so the most important thing about NaNoWriMo for me is to have fun.  And this year I decided to have fun doing other things instead of writing my 50,000 words.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


It's Thanksgiving, so I started thinking about all the things for which I am thankful.  Here are a very few of them:

I'm thankful for my family and friends and my wonderful colleagues (present and past!  I have been so lucky in working with nice people).

I am thankful that my library is still open and able to serve our community.  I am thankful they let me work there because I have fun almost every single day and who can say that about their job?

I am thankful for my blog readers because you make it fun to blog, even when it feels like work (which it does, sometimes).

I am thankful for authors working hard to write great books and I am thankful for publishers working hard to publish and promote them and I am thankful for all the other book bloggers who let me know about them and make my collection development that much easier.  And, of course, I am thankful for publicists and marketers and interns who offer to send me free books.  The teens and kids at my library are thankful for that, too, because that's where most of them end up when I am done with them (given away as prizes, etc.).

There are lots of other things I'm thankful for (like purring cats and warm socks and the IUS Community Chorus and mashed potatoes and my car [please don't stop working, car...]).  But that's enough for this post.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guest Post: Author Denise Jaden

My excitement over NaNoWriMo continues and so do the guest posts!  In honor of National Novel Writing Month, I'm hosting several wonderful authors who started or worked on their books as part of NaNoWriMo.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing Denise Jaden, author of the 2010 debut Losing Faith (Simon Pulse).  Denise is a member of the Class of 2k10 and lives in British Columbia, Canada.  I asked her about her experience with NaNoWriMo and this is what she had to say:

Back in 2007 I had heard of NaNoWriMo a few times, but didn’t really understand what it was until my critique partner explained it to me. She pretty much insisted we attempt it together, since she’d had great success with it the year before. I was excited, and at her suggestion, I worked on my first outline in anticipation.

I knew from the start that I didn’t want to get too absorbed in the social aspects of NaNo. I barely thought I had the time to write the book, let alone spend anytime online talking about it. I generally just checked in each day and updated my word count. Sometimes my critique partner and I would email and congratulate each other on big milestones.

I’m an extremely goal-driven person (just ask my husband, who lives in our hurricane of a house each November). The daily word count updates, and that nifty little bar that showed me how far I had gone and how far I had yet to go were the things that kept me going. I needed to complete it. It’s just how I am.

I believe my first draft of my 2007 novel, Losing Faith (Simon & Schuster, 2010), came in at around 48,000 words complete. I could not bear to leave the goal undone, so I went back and fleshed out a few of the bare scenes (there were lots to choose from, as I am an under-writer). I was truly ecstatic when I hit (and surpassed by a couple thousand words) the 50k mark. It felt like such an unbelievable accomplishment, and even though I knew the story had some holes, I felt so incredibly capable. If I could write a draft in thirty days (twenty-one actually) then I felt like I could do anything!

I’d been trying to get published prior to NaNo, so I definitely had hopes of get this novel published, but really, I was amazed at how quickly the process happened. I’d spent several years on each of my first two novels, but with my NaNo novel, I revised it and had an agent representing it within just under a year. And I had an offer after having it out on submission for only about six weeks.

I can’t say that every NaNo project will go this way, and in fact I still have novels from the last couple of years that are nowhere near ready for publishing. But it only took a month of my life to write each one of them! And I know if I spend the time, there is some good stuff there to work with. Which is more than I can say for a blank page.

I LOVE NaNo and encourage all writers to give it a try. People need to find their own system that works for them—some may need a lot of the camaraderie in the forums to keep them going. For me though, all I need is the goal, and it works every time.

Thanks for stopping by, Denise!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.  (Grades 8+)  Dutton Books, December 2010.  372 pages.  Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Typical.  Anna's father has decided that she'll be spending her senior year across the Atlantic at a boarding school in Paris.  It means leaving her friends, leaving her younger brother, and living in a city where she doesn't speak the language.  Not Anna's idea of a lovely senior year.

But then there's this boy.  Almost immediately after arriving at the School of America in Paris, Anna meets Etienne, a gorgeous guy with a dreamy British accent.  The trouble is that Etienne is taken.  And Anna's kind of taken, too - there was that one kiss with Toph before she left... But maybe anything can happen in the City of Lights.

Oh, this was a yummy read! Why?  Well, first of all, it takes place in Paris.  A foreign, romantic city.  Okay, I'm happy with where I am right now and I love my job, but after reading this book I found myself researching American schools abroad and wondering if there were any librarian positions open...  From the food to the sights and museums, to read this book is to take a brain vacation to Paris.  Ooh la la, delightful!

And definitely don't forget the dreamy boys.  Anna and the French Kiss has the kind of boys that you love to drool over and Stephanie Perkins keeps the sexual tension taut throughout.  She's able to make it hot without being too graphic.  Not that there's anything wrong with being graphic, but the way things play out feels very true to the characters.

Really, I identified with Anna.  She's a bit of a wallflower and totally intimidated about going out into the city and trying to find her way around.  As she goes through her year in Paris, and with the help of her new boarding school pals, she slowly begins to brave the city and she ends up gaining a lot of self-confidence.  I think this is a story that will speak to a lot of girls.

Plus, it was just super fun to read.

I'd highly recommend this to fans of teen romance novels.  It's a perfect pick for your winter break reading or to bring with you on vacation (or, say, when you're super stressed and you need to read something to get away...).  I'd hand it to fans of the Students Across the Seven Seas series or Sarah Dessen in a heartbeat.  And I kinda feel like Cruel Summer by Alyson Noel flew under the radar a bit, but I'd recommend it as a readalike to Anna.  It's got the same girl-unwillingly-abroad + hot-boy-ness that makes Anna so yum.

OH. And and and!!  Stephanie Perkins says in the acknowledgements that she started this story during NaNoWriMo.  That is awesome!!

Read more reviews at Just Your Typical Book BlogThe Raven Desk, Persnickety Snark, GreenBean TeenQueen, YA Librarian Tales, Everyday Reading, and GalleySmith (among many, MANY others).    

Anna and the French Kiss will be on shelves December 2!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxanne Orgill, illustrated by Sean Qualls.  (Grades 3-7.) Candlewick Press, August 2010.  Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils consideration (this review reflects only my own opinion).

Ella Fitzgerald, raggedy and poor, had a dancing beat in her heart that just wouldn't stop.  She grew up poor in New York and after she was orphaned at 14, she was soon out on the street, but she didn't let it stop her.  Ella started going to auditions and people could see she had something special.  Even though she was sleeping on friends' couches and floors, her music made people want to get up an dance.  And pretty soon, Ella wasn't a raggedy cat anymore, she was a "rowdy-dowdy high-hat baby" climbing the charts.

Skit-Scar Raggedy Cat is an accessible and kid-friendly account of Ella Fitzgerald's childhood and teen years.  Ella was only 14 when she was orphaned and she made her singing debut at the Apollo Theater when she was 17.  The book concentrates on her teen years, her transition from poor and happy with her family to running with a rough crowd and living on the streets to the start of her successful singing career.  This is a great picture book to share with older readers.

I love the carefully chosen words that make up this book.  They ring with rhythm and music and beg to be read aloud.  (And yes, I read parts of this book aloud to my cats.  They seemed to enjoy it.)  Take this passage describing Ella's life after her mother died:

"Ella was a rough-tough raggedy cat on the outside, but inside she was milky and silky and soft and shy.  The raggedy cat got rougher... Ella was hurting, and there was no one to notice.  Ella broke the law herself once, twice, and then - 


Ella got sent up the Hudson River to a school for orphans.  It was an awful place, a nightmare place... The school was no place for a rowdy-dowdy high-hat baby with a broken heart.  How could Ella dance in a nightmare?  How could she sing with no one to send the song to?"

Illustrations in pinks and blues and reds and browns compliment the text.  They bring out the joy on Ella's face when she's singing and dancing, making her beautiful even though many people didn't think she was beautiful in real life.

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat is a great addition to the many wonderful picture book biographies today.  It'd make a nice choice for units on music or Black History.  And it's on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday!  Practically Paradise has the roundup!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Buzz: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

You guys.  I just finished Deadly by Julie Chibbaro and it is fabulous!

It gets an A+ on the Mattie Gokey Scale of General Awesomeness.

And you will hear more about that when I post my review closer to the pub date (February 22, 2011 - alas!).

Put this one on your radar, kids!

(You know who Mattie Gokey is, right?  From Jennifer Donnelly's fantastic A Northern Light?  If not, I insist you go out and read that right away.)

2011 Debut Author Challenge

Like I've said, I am not a book challenge person.  I just don't do well with them.  But the Debut Author Challenge is different!  I finished the 2010 challenge, reading more than my personal goal of 20 debuts in 2010, and now I'm back to join the 2011 Debut Author Challenge, hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

The goal of the Debut Author Challenge is to read at least 12 books by debut middle-grade or YA authors in 2011.  Again, I'm going to make my personal goal to read at least 20 debuts.  I'll keep track of 'em here on this post (like I did last year on this post).

Books read and reviewed:

1. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
2. Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings by Sophia Bennett
3. Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer
4. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
5. Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen
6. Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith
7. I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
8. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
9. Divergent by Veronica Roth
10. Bunheads by Sophie Flack
11. Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

In My Mailbox #57

Seriously.  I appreciate all the books I get in the mail, but this was a pretty epic week... Behold the awesome... (and then go over to The Story Siren and check out the roundup!)

Lesse... what's in here... (Links go to GoodReads, where you will find plot summaries, etc.)

Angry Young Man by Chris Lynch (Simon & Schuster, February 2011).  I liked Lynch's Inexcuseable, and I definitely need to read more guy books. 

The Candidates (Delcriox Academy #1) by Inara Scott (Hyperion, August 2010).  Paranormal + private school = I'm intrigued. 

Choker by Elizabeth Woods (Simon & Schuster, January 2011).  2011 debut!!!  An aside: one of my roommates in college was named Elizabeth Wood.  I don't think that's the same person or else Liz has some splainin to do...

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han (Little, Brown, January 2011).  I actually picked up a copy of this at BEA, so I feel a giveaway coming on... It's a nice book!

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann (Simon Pulse, February 2011).  *squee!*  I looooved McMann's Wake and I've been looking forward to this one!  I have heard some mixed things, but I want to read for myself and see. :)  (PS: Several blogs have that countdown widget and OMG IT FREAKS ME OUT.) 

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton (Simon Pulse, February 2011).  2011 debut!!!  I think this is some kind of mythology retelling... 

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro (Atheneum, February 2011).  I'm about halfway through this one and it is AWESOME!  It's set in 1906-07 (my favorite time period for historical fiction) and deals with a girl scientist's hunt for Typhoid Mary.

No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko (Dial, February 2011).  Very excited about this one because I really enjoyed her Al Capone books.  This looks like a departure from her other books - very cool!

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan (Simon & Schuster, April 2011).  Historical fiction with an English main character living in India in 1918!

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roarke Dowell (Atheneum, March 2011).  Dowell has published middle grade before, but this is her teen debut.  I read the first page and it looks really great.  I actually received two copies of this, so I feel another giveaway coming on... 

We Are Not Eaten by Yaks by G. Alexander London (Philomel, February 2011).  Looks quirky, and kind of Lemony Snickett-ish.  

Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Simon & Schuster, March 2011).  2011 debut!!! I love the pretty cover!  I've been coveting this one since I saw it on Kristi's Books to Pine For back in August! 

WHEW.  Epic.  So, how about you?  Anything epic in your mailbox this week? 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Around the Interwebs

Back from the fantastic ILF Conference and checkin' out the following stuff on the interwebs:

Didn't get to attend the YALSA YA Literature Symposium (I didn't)?  Check out the roundup of resources from the Body Positivity & Fat Acceptance Pre-Conference over at Fat Girl Reading.  I so wish I could have been there!  Maybe it'll be a bit closer in 2012...

Indiana readers, note the date for the Indianapolis Youth Literature Conference!  Authors Brian Pinkney, Andrea David Pinkney, and Patricia McCormick will be there!

Oh yeah, the National Book Award winners were announced.  Congratulations to Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird, winner in the Young People's Literature category!  Check out the full list of nominees and winners.

Picture books for boys?  Mel's got ya covered.

Do teens still read contemporary fiction?  I didn't make it to our last teen advisory group meeting, but I think that if John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Maureen Johnson (and many others) disappeared from our library shelves, we would hear about it.  Over the summer, I had a group of teen volunteers who could not stop talking about Pretty Little Liars.  Sure, paranormal's hot right now and kids are devouring fantasy tomes as thick as phone books, but that doesn't mean there's no room for contemporary.  It takes all kinds of books to make up a library. Thanks to Kelly of STACKED for the link.  

2011 YA and Middle Grade debut authors, Kristi is looking for you!  Yup, Kristi at The Story Siren will be hosting the debut author challenge for 2011 and she's looking for debut books to promote and deb authors willing to donate items to prize packs.  If you've got a debut coming out in 2011, make sure Kristi knows about it!

Dude, Save the Words.  (OMG, I adopted a word last week and now I can't even remember what it was... I am so failing at Saving the Words...) Thanks to Leila at bookshelves of doom for the link.

And Jaclyn Dolamore has a list of ten types of book reviews that make authors sad.  Bloggers, have you done any of these?  :)  Thanks again to Kelly of STACKED for the link.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum

Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy.  (Grades K-5.) Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010.  Unpaged.  Review copy provided by my local library.  This title has been nominated for a Cybils Award and this review reflects only my own opinion. 

It was the 1920s and scientists at the candy factory were trying to invent a new kind of gum.  Oh, chewing gum had been around for years and years - Ancient Greeks chewed tree sap from the mastic tree, American Indians chewed spruce tree resin, and, more recently, people chewed gum for fun and health.  But what if people could blow bubbles with their gum?

The scientists were having a time of it.  They couldn't seem to come up with a recipe that would work.  Enter Walter Diemer.  Walter was an accountant at the candy factory and when an experimental lab was moved into the office next to his, he watched what was going on.  Eventually, he started some of his own experiments and, after months of trying different ingredients, he found a recipe that worked!  Bubble gum was born!

What a fun, fun book!  From the colorful cartoon illustrations to the subject matter, this book calls out to kids.  Fun facts are slipped in at every turn.  For instance, did you know that bubble gum is pink because it was the only coloring Walter had on hand?

Spreads in the back of the book include additional biographical information about Walter Diemer, source notes for quotes, and many fun facts about gum.  This is an invaluable resource if you've got kids who do projects on inventions.  It includes enough information for a short report (and what a fun project that would be!) and presents the information in a really accessible way.

Meghan McCarthy's colorful illustrations add to the text, depicting happy cartoon gum-chewers dressed in period-appropriate clothing.  The colors she chooses for the spreads reflect the mood of the text.  When Walter is wonderingly experimenting and adding ingredients, the spread is a hushed blue tone.  When his first exciting batch ends up hard as a rock the next day, the spread is all black with Walter sitting under a lone light, head in his hands.

Get your hands on this book!  I'm a big fan of Meghan McCarthy's work and this is one of my favorites.  (Incidentally, she is working on Balto next!!!  I love Balto!!!!!)

Check out more reviews at Rasco from RIF, The Joys of Reading, and This Purple Crayon.

Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum is on shelves now!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guest Post: Laurel Snyder

As y'all know, I've been hosting some very special authors this month in honor of National Novel Writing Month.  We're halfway through the month (how's your word count?)  Today I have the pleasure of hosting Laurel Snyder, author of several children's books including the recently released Penny Dreadful (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2010).

Here's Laurel!

My involvement with NaNoWriMo actually began when I was asked to send them something, as an author, for the Young Writers' Program. They wanted to me to offer some personal inspiration for writer's block, and I sent this:  http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/node/501138.    I remember being  amazed at the resources they offered to  kids. The experience was great.  I patted myself on the back for participating as a mentor of sorts.

But when, only a year later, I found myself getting ready to start a new novel in October, I was a little scared to  try the NaNoWriMo experience as a participant.  I knew that if I was going to nudge kids into sticking with the system, I should be able to do it myself. Yet  I remember being pretty intimidated.

For me, the hardest part was just learning to write FAST!  I started my writing career as a poet, and I tend to work slowly, word by word. I'd never really measured myself for speed/length before.  Often, on any given day, my WIP actually shrinks. So the idea of measuring in word count was mildly terrifying.  But I kept at it.  And it was a really good lesson for me.  I learned to work in solid stretches. To keep my butt in the chair.

Of course, Penny Dreadful changed dramatically after NaNoWriMo ended.  I rewrote the book several times.  But the great lesson for me was simply that I can do that-- can write fast and sloppy, work like a fiend, and then let go of my mistakes.  It's a hard thing to learn, but well worth it. In a sense, NaNoWriMo taught me that any month can be NaNoWriMo.

Laurel grew up in Baltimore and now lives in Atlanta, GA.  She's a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Michener-Engle Fellow, a commentator for NPR's All Things Considered, and, most importantly, a mom.  

Thanks so much for stopping by, Laurel! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Buzz on Bees

The Buzz on Bees: Why Are They Disappearing? by Shelley Rotner and Anne Woodhull.  (Grades 1-4.)  Holiday House, 2010.  Review copy provided by my local library.  This title has been nominated for a Cybils award.  This review reflects only my own opinion, not the opinion of the panel. 

The bees.  Since 2003, they have been disappearing en masse and nobody's quite sure why.  Why is it important?  Well, bees pollinate things.  Things like fruits and vegetables.  Bees may be small, but their impact on the environment is huge.  Plus, bees dying off may be a sign that our planet is not healthy!

In The Buzz on Bees, authors Shelley Rotner and Anne Woodhull examine the effect bees have on the environment, some theories as to why the bees are disappearing, and what we can do to help.  Vivid photographs capture bees of many different types - yes, honeybees are disappearing, but many other native bee species are declining as well.  One thing I found interesting was information about the different types of bees and what plants they pollinate particularly well.

The authors present many different theories to the bees' disappearance - disease, stress from transportation, diet, loss of habitat, etc.  There's a nice section with tips for kids on what they can do to help bees and the environment in general, and there's an extensive list of web resources for further information.

The photographs are stunning and colorful and they'll be clear crowd-pleasers with kids.  The text is accessible and simple enough to share with lower elementary students, though older students will get use out of this book as well.  If you've got students who are not quite ready for The Hive Detectives by Loree Griffin Burns, this book will do quite nicely.

The Buzz on Bees is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday!  Check out this week's roundup at In Need of Chocolate!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Anyone going to ILF?

Okay, Indiana Librarians - who's going to ILF*?  I will be there Tuesday and Wednesday!  If you see me, come say hi!  (I have never been to ILF before, so I'm looking forward to seeing what it's all about!)  Normally, I am much more prepared, but life being so busy + online only program calendar = I have no idea what sessions I'm going to...  Add it to tomorrow's to-do list......

*For those of you not in Indiana, ILF = Indiana Library Federation and the annual conference is this week in Indianapolis.

In My Mailbox #55

My mailbox was all about the fantasy this week!  (In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren - head over there to see what books arrived in my bloggers' mailboxes this week!)

House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan (Starscape/Tor, November 2010).  

Invisible Things by Jenny Davidson (HarperTeen, November 2010).  - I actually gave a gasp of pleasant surprise when this one showed up.  Funny story, I had the chance to grab a signed ARC at BEA and I didn't realize what the book was, so I passed on it.  And then KICKED MYSELF afterward.  I really enjoyed The Explosionist, so I'm excited for this one!

The Youngest Templar: Orphan of Destiny by Michael P. Spradlin (October, 2010).  This is the third book in a series, apparently. 

A World Without Heroes (The Beyonders #1) by Brandon Mull (March, 2011).  This is the first book in a new series by the author of the Fablehaven books.  Those books fly off the shelves at my library! 

So, there was my fantastical mailbox this week!  What exciting things showed up in your mailbox? 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Around the Interwebs

I haven't been keeping up with my blog-reading like I should (Cybils, NaNoWriMo, etc.), but I do have a few things for you this week:

The New York Times will have e-book best-seller lists for both fiction and non-fiction, starting early next year.

Yeah, there was an #AmazonFail this week.  My two cents?  I'm a librarian.  I will fight to the death to stop censorship.  BUT, there is a difference between offensive and obscene.  Just because it was written does not mean that it has to be published or sold, especially since the book seems to violate Amazon's own publishing guidelines.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Replacement

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.  Grades 8 and up.  Razorbill, September 2010.  343 pages.  Reviewed from ARC snagged at BEA.

Something's rotten in the town of Gentry.  Kids disappear sometimes, replaced by creatures that soon die, unable to bear the metal in the world.  Everyone knows it, but that's the way it's always been.  Gentry's been cursed... or is it blessed?  Because the things that happen to other towns - natural disasters, business failures - never happen in Gentry.  And kids keep disappearing...

Mackie Doyle, with eyes black as coal and a severe aversion to iron and steel, is not like the other kids at his high school.  He knows he's different, knows that he's been different ever since he was placed in his crib, knows that without his sister Emma looking out for him he never would have survived this long.  But he's not sure what he is.  Mackie's going to find out.  He's going to find the one thing that can keep him alive.  But it'll require sacrifice and Mackie - along with the entire town of Gentry - will have to decide if it's worth it.

Eerie.  That's a good word for this story.  And atmospheric.  And creepy.  And compelling.

The first thing I really liked about this story was our main character Mackie.  He's not human, but no one's really sure what he is exactly.  He's lived in the human world longer than most of his kind do.  And he's just so relateable!  Sure, he can't use a normal knife and fork because metal burns his skin.  He can't step onto the consecrated ground at the church where his father works.  He tries to make himself invisible at school because he feels like he's so different that he doesn't want to call more attention to himself.  Who hasn't felt like that at some point?  Completely outside, like nobody would ever understand.  Sure, Mackie's different, but he's not evil and, in fact, he's doing everything he can to make sure that the evil that surrounds Gentry is stopped.

I loved Mackie's relationship with his sister and his friends.  Despite his weirdness, people care about Mackie.  If he'd let himself see it, he'd know that he's got a nice support group.  At the beginning of the book, Mackie feels alone, but as he slowly figures out where he came from and what's happening in Gentry, he realizes that there are people who love him just how he is.  I especially loved the bond between Mackie and his sister Emma because they truly have each others' backs.

So, then there's the town of Gentry.  CREEPY.  This is a town where, for hundreds of years, people have looked the other way.  They've allowed their children to be taken and sacrificed in exchange for the town living on.  The atmosphere that Brenna Yovanoff has built here is dark and foggy, mysterious and a little poisonous.  It's such a warped little town that it's easy to believe that there are unnamed monsters hiding underground.  The monsters (for lack of a better word) are presented in such a way that they're not just evil.  This is not the Big Bad, wreaking havoc just because that's what they do.  These are very old creatures and there are precedents behind how they act and how they relate to the people of Gentry.  I really appreciated the fact that the creatures are well-rounded.  It makes sense, what's going on, even if it is a little twisted.

Teens looking for a spooky tale need look no further, but the appeal of this book goes beyond horror fans.  Maggie Stiefvater is quotes on the ARC, calling this a "beautiful story of ugly things" and I couldn't agree more.

Read more reviews at Reading Rants, DJ's Life in Fiction, Stacked, Forever Young Adult, and Fat Girl Reading.  

The Replacement is on shelves now!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Audiobook Review: Alanna

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, read by Trini Alvarado.  (Grades 5 and up.)  Listening Library, 2003.  5 hours and 17 minutes.  Reviewed from copy "purchased" through Audible during a special promotion.

Alanna of Trebond knows what her role will be - she'll be sent to the convent to learn how to be a lady while her twin brother Tom goes to the castle to train as a knight.  But why should it be that way when Tom would prefer to study sorcery and Alanna longs to learn to fight and perform great deeds?  So Alanna suggests a switch.  As Alanna tries to keep up with her studies, learns to fight with weapons, and fulfills her pagely duties, she has to continually hide her true identity, a feat that gets harder as she builds relationships inside and outside the castle.  But if Alanna slips, her dreams will slip away...

I first read this series when I was in grad school.  I wasn't expecting to like them much, but they were popular books and I felt like I should at least give the first one a try.  I was totally surprised by how AWESOME they are.  Alanna's just the kind of character that you love to root for.  She's got a good heart and she's feisty and she shakes things up.  Plus, she's an awesome fighter and a powerful female.

I forget who recommended the audiobooks to me (was it you, Erin?), but I am so glad they did!  Funny story, though.  My local public library does not own them.  At one point they had Alanna on CD, but it must have been damaged or lost because I had it on hold forever and it never came in.  So when Audible was running a promotion where you got 2 free downloads for starting a trial membership, I jumped on it and downloaded the first two audiobooks in the Song of the Lioness series.

I love them!  Trini Alvarado (you may know her as Meg in 1994's movie version of Little Women) reads and she does a wonderful job.  It's partially voiced, nothing too incredibly flashy, but she's just a good reader with a nice voice.  I felt like I was sitting with a friend telling me a story and that made me want to keep coming back to the audiobook.  In fact, I actually looked forward to my commute because I'd get a little more listening time in.

This is a wonderful story, well told and well read.  If you haven't read Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness series, I can happily recommend the audiobooks to you!  They're on shelves now!

Hey!  I'm an Audible affiliate, so if you purchase an audiobook after clicking on one of my affiliate links, I may receive a referral fee.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dear Character, I'm Sorry

(This one goes out to my dear friend Meghan who loves this game. :) 

That's right!  It's time to play Dear Character, I'm Sorry, in which National Novel Writing Month authors write letters apologizing to their characters for the mean and nasty stuff we have to do to them (or just for how bad our writing is).  It's a fun way to get a little glimpse into your fellow novelists' books, without sharing any of the hideous, cliche-ridden writing (I'm speaking only for myself, of course).  And HEY, if you play along, drop me a link in comments and I'll round 'em all up.

Dear Raina,

I'm sorry that I put you in a position of having to choose, but hey, I needed some INNER TURMOIL.  I'm sorry that you have felt uncomfortable for basically the past sixteen years.  And I'm really sorry your heart pounds so often.  I really need to think of a different way to say that.

Dear Meryl, 

I'm sorry for what happened to you because, really, it is truly awful.  HOWEVER, I think there *might* be a cure in book 2 (if I ever write book 2... maybe for your sake I will...)

Dear Elijah, 

I'm sorry that Raina is probably not going to pick you.  You are adorkable and only slightly creepy.  Plus, what a magnificent kiss you guys had...

Dear Luke,

I'M NOT SORRY FOR ANYTHING BECAUSE YOU ARE FABULOUS.  If Raina doesn't pick you, she is a moron.  I just hope you expose your sweet, soulful side and treat her right.  (I am pretty sure you will.)

Dear Jada, 

I'm sorry you don't have a boyfriend!  I might just have to remedy that!

Your Author

Guest Post: Dia Reeves

It's that time again!  Time for another jolt of NaNoWriMo inspiration and I'm pleased to welcome Dia Reeves, librarian (!!!) and author of the 2010 YA debut Bleeding Violet (Simon Pulse, 2010) and the upcoming Slice of Cherry (Simon Pulse, 2011).  Dia lives near Dallas, TX.

Without further ado, here's Dia!

I did my first NaNo in 2005 with the first book I ever wrote and finished, which was Bleeding Violet. I won that year and went on to publish that book (but only after two and a half years of revision). In 2008 I did NaNo again with Slice of Cherry, which is about to become my second published book (it comes out in January). I consider NaNo to be a good luck tradition when it comes to me and my books, and that's why I'm entering again this year with book number three.
Writing fifty thousand words in thirty days isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, though. People tend to write their beginnings really easily, but then once that initial excitement wears off, they find themselves at a loss and with no idea what to write next. What I do to combat that mid-novel slump is this: In October, I come up with my master list. I write down thirty scenes that I need in my novel on just one sheet of paper, and each day in November I pick a scene and write. That way, come November 15th, I don't run out of gas and end up staring blankly at the computer.
Even though October is over and NaNo is upon us, I think writing down a list of scenes is still something people can do if they find themselves stuck. It's certainly much more effective than yelling at your computer or throwing pieces of Thanksgiving turkey at it. Trust me on that one, and happy writing!
So, NaNovelers, if you feel yourself starting to run out of steam, take a hint from Dia and spend some time jotting down the scenes you want to write.  The month is still young!  You can do it!
Thanks for stopping by, Dia!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. (Grades 2-5.)  Scholastic, January 2010.  Unpaged.  Review copy provided by my local library.  This title has been nominated for a Cybils Award and this review reflects only my own opinion, not the opinion of the panel. 

So, biographies of Mark Twain.  They've been done, right?  But this one stands out from the crowd.  Why?  Because it was written by Susy Clemens, Mark Twain's 13-year-old daughter.

It's absolutely true that Susy Clemens started writing a biography of her father when she was 13.  Using quotes from Susy's biography, Barbara Kerley gives us a unique picture of the famous author Mark Twain, the author as seen through the eyes of someone who knew him best.

The book describes how Susy observed her papa and wrote down the truth about him.  Small insets between the pages provide quotes from Susy's actual manuscript, a document that currently resides at the University of Virginia Library.  The large pages and bold illustrations fit well with the subject matter - a man who was larger than life.  I love the varied facial expressions of the people depicted in the book and the author and illustrator do an excellent job of portraying the many moods of Mark Twain.  I was a big fan of Edwin Fotheringham's work in last year's Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey, and I'm a big fan of these illustrations as well.

Kids will delight in reading the words (misspellings and all) written by an actual kid.  An author's note provides more information about both Mark Twain and Susy Clemens.  The book includes a timeline and a list of sources, as well as Barbara Kerley's tips for "writing an extraordinary biography".

Check out more reviews at INK,  The Fourth Musketeer, and Writing and Ruminating.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday!  Head on over to Shelf-employed for the roundup!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In My Mailbox #54

Welcome to In My Mailbox, a weekly meme where bloggers explore the contents of their mailboxes in an attempt to spread the word about new and upcoming titles.  Head on over to The Story Siren to see the roundup and get the lowdown on what awesome books bloggers are excited about this week!

I got a bunch of Cybils review books in the mail, but I'm going to do a big post on those later, so here is the very eclectic mix of non-Cybils books I got in the mail this week (also pictured are my cat Howie's feet):

Animal Pop! by National Geographic (October 2010).  This is a very cool book with five life-size animal pop-outs and information about the animals.  It includes spreads on tigers, dolphins, wolves, pandas, and sea turtles.  The photos are, of course, amazing.  

First Step 2 Forever by Justin Bieber (HarperCollins, October 2010).  Um, I guess now I will be able to find out if he really is a girl.  (Seriously, the kids at my library... OMG they're gonna go crazy for this one.) 

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic, August 2010).  I rarely accept graphic novels for review, but this one's been getting such good word-of-mouth, I had to see what all the fuss was about.  Keep your eyes peeled (ew) because I'll be hosting a fantastic giveaway from Scholastic in a couple weeks!!! 

(By the by, I would also accept a review copy of Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm's new project - Squish: Super Amoeba, in case anyone at Random House is reading...;)

So, that's my mailbox this week... Did you get anything exciting?  Anyone have a more eclectic mailbox than me?  (Seriously, I challenge you...!)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Around the Interwebs

ALA's adding a new literary award to the prestigious Youth Media Awards, presented at the Midwinter Conference each year.  The Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award honors “English-language works for children and teens of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered experience.”  The Stonewall Award has been given to adult books for almost 40 years (under various names), but the children's and young adult category is new.  Thanks to Kelly of Stacked for the link!

Wondering what to do with your review copies once you've written the reviews?  Donate them to a classroom library!  While public and school libraries cannot accept ARCs for their collections, classroom libraries, often paid for out of teachers' own pockets, can.  Need help finding a classroom to donate to?  Or maybe you're a teacher and would like to be matched with a blogger?  Sarah at The Reading Zone has set up ARCs Float On, a program to match review bloggers with teachers who need books for their classrooms.  Read more about the program at that link and then fill out the ARCs Float On Matchmaker Survey to be paired up with a classroom/blogger.

Ari at Reading in Color has started a list of supernatural/paranormal YA books with protagonists of color: Supernaturally Brown.  And she's got a list of boarding school novels that feature protagonists of color: Boarding While Brown.  Do check 'em out (and add suggestions in comments!).      

Looking your next great listen?  Check out October's AudioSynced Roundup, hosted by Kelly at Stacked.  (By the way, I just started listening to The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, read by Anne Hathaway and it is AWESOME.  I just want to listen to it all the time.  Expect a review soon...)

Picture books are just for little kids, right?  WRONG!  Sarah at GreenBean TeenQueen has an excellent list of picture books for tweens.  Check out the comments on her post for even more suggestions.

And that's all I've got for you this week.  You NaNovelers, how are your novels coming?  (I'm a bit behind, but planning on catching up tonight...!)


Congratulations to Rachael B. of North Carolina, who was picked by the random number generator to win a signed ARC of Antony John's Five Flavors of Dumb!  Thanks to all who entered.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Sweetness of Salt

The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante. Grades 7 and up. Bloomsbury USA, November 2010.  320 pages.  Reviewed from ARC scooped up at BEA.

Julia's doing everything right. She's just graduated valedictorian of her high school class. She's landed an internship in a law office for the summer and in the fall she's off to college to start her pre-law studies (she's got a full ride to Pitt). Then it'll be law school... but is studying law Julia's dream or is she just following in her father's footsteps?

When Julia's older sister Sophie comes home for her graduation, she reveals a family secret that changes everything. Suddenly Julia's not sure what she wants or who she can trust. So Julia heads to Vermont to spend the summer with her sister, helping her renovate an old house into a bakery and, hopefully, getting some answers to her questions. Over the course of the summer Julia will get to know her sister and she'll realize that you have to take the salty along with the sweet.

I enjoyed this book and it reminded me most of Sarah Dessen (whom I love, so that's a compliment!). What I liked best was the journey that Julia undergoes. She's lived this sheltered life, never a toe out of line, aiming for the goal she thinks she should have. Now that everything's changed, Julia has to figure out what she wants and how to go after it. The change comes about gradually and in a totally believable way.

There are a handful of those small-town quirky characters, who I found somewhat interchangeable with the notable exception of Aiden - a dreamy older artist that Julia starts talking to. And there's a little superfluous romance, but it's not the main focus of the book.

It's a book about sisters and family. It's a book about figuring out who you are. It's a book about a time in your life when things start to change and you'll never be the same. I think Julia's journey will resonate with many teens who are teetering on the precipice of adulthood.

The Sweetness of Salt will be on shelves November 9.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

As we cruise into the end of the budget year...

I know some of you probably have fiscal years that end in June, but at my library our budget year is up in December.  As I find myself placing the last order of the year, I want to make sure I don't miss anything great.  I won't be ordering again until January, so I really have to make sure I'm caught up!

What resources am I looking at to make sure I order as many buzzworthy titles as possible?

Cybils nominees!  Sure they haven't been evaluated by Cybils judges yet, but someone thought they were good enough to warrant a nomination, so I'll take a look at them.  This is especially helpful for areas in which I'm less familiar - like easy readers and graphic novels.

And if you buy for a teen/YA collection, check out the titles nominated for ALA's Best Fiction for Young Adults.

Make sure you're keeping an eye on books featuring characters of color and written by authors of color.  Doret at The Happy Nappy Bookseller does a regular feature of new releases of children's books by and about people of color

Mock Newbery lists!  Librarian Pirate has a great GoodReads compilation of many different Mock Newbery lists.  

And why stop at Mock Newbery lists when you can look at Mock Caldecott, Mock Sibert, Mock Geisel, Mock Coretta Scott King, and Mock Printz lists from the Allen County Public Library?

Of course, you'll want to check out Shelftalker's The Stars So Far list of books with starred reviews from major review journals.

So, take these resources and develop those collections!  And do share - what other resources are you using to make sure you buy the best books of 2010?